Category Archives: GLBT fiction

“Me, Myself & Him” by Chris Tebbets— Choices

Tebbetts, Chris. “Me Myself & Him”, Penguin Random House, 2019.


Amos Lassen

In “Me, Myself & Him”, Chris Tebbets gives us the story of parallel time lines and further explores how our choices can change and shape us or don’t change the core of our being at all.

When Chris Schweitzer takes a hit of laughing gas or whippets, he passes out face first on the cement and it is not only his nose that changes forever. Instead of staying home with his friends for the last summer after high school, he’s sent off to live with his famous physicist father to prove he can “play by the rules” before Dad will pay for college. The problem is his father who is every bit a jerk.

In an alternate time line, Chris’s parents remain blissfully ignorant about the accident, and life at home goes back to normal–until it doesn’t. A new spark between his two best (straight) friends quickly turns Chris into a (gay) third wheel, and even worse, the truth about the whippets incident starts to come out. As his summer explodes into a million messy pieces, Chris wonders how else things might have gone. He wonders if it is possible to be jealous of another version of yourself in an alternate reality that doesn’t even exist? 

“Me Myself & Him” looks at how what we consider to be true is really just one part of a bigger picture. It examines love, relationships, and the different paths one’s life can take.

“PAIN AND GLORY”— Almodovar Reminisces

“Pain and Glory” (“Dolor y Gloria”)

Almodovar Reminisces

Amos Lassen

Almodovar fans have largely assumed that that the director’s latest film is semi-autobiographical; it is  the story of an openly gay filmmaker as he reminisces on his childhood and his prior filmography.  Parallels began and end with those basic facts that we all know about Almodovar and this film is  is more of an interrogation as to why he continues to look for inspiration to make films, as opposed to an autobiographical journey through his own past. Here is an autobiography that is not an autobiography.

Antonio Banderas is Salvador Mallo, the character tjay is not an extension of Almodovar but more of  an alternate reality version; one whose passion to make films has dulled with age, and chooses to re-examine his history in order to find the creative spark once again. This is not the swan song that some previously imagined. Rather, it is the close of one chapter and the opening of another;  a film about filmmaking without the inherently pretentious nature of that premise to reveal the emotional motivations that inspire people to share their stories.

It seems that Salvador Mallo has grown out of love with filmmaking, but after a chance to present a restored version of one of his classic films comes about, he chooses to meet his former star Alberto (Asier Exteandia) with whom he has not spoken to for 30 years. Alberto is now a heroin addict, an addiction that Salvador picks up as they resume a creative partnership, with the drugs fueling Salvador’s own memories of the past; from growing up in a converted cave alongside his mother (Penelope Cruz) in the 60’s to remembering his first love in the early 80’s, to the moments when he first found himself in love with and enraptured by the power of cinema. This is a meta textual examination of a filmmaker crafting his most ambitious project to date. Almodovar is interested in exploring the human factors that would inspire somebody to tell a story in the first place. We never see a single frame from any of Salvador’s films, just the rolling end credits at the screening of the restored film, and we only experience his work via a monologue performed by Alberto, who plans to use Salvador’s work to find the inspiration to act again. At its core, this is a film about the innate emotional response we have to those memories that lead some people to create, and the personal feelings others attach to those films that inspire them to create something of their own.

“Pain and Glory” is Almodovar’s attempt to appreciate the quirks he previously dismissed when looking upon them for the first time in years. Here is the director falling in love with film again by using his work of old to find the inspiration to create something anew.

The personal tales from Salvador’s history, such as his ill-fated relationship with a bisexual man for whom he was the only male lover, are all moving, Almodovar incorporates those stories in a way that shows how they’ve been adapted into Salvador’s work, and the subtle ways in which the true tales differentiate from the stories they inspired. This film is remarkable in how it articulates the inner mind of a creative in a way anybody can respond to. With Almodovar, the creative process is emotionally involving.

Almodovar is approaching his 70th birthday with his love of moviemaking undiluted. “Pain and Glory” is filled with all the things we love about him: the importance of women (especially his mother), shameless nostalgia and celebration of sexuality are all here and in Almodovar’s overstated way, the film is wonderful to look at. But it’s unlikely to be remembered with any great fondness by all but Almodovar diehards because its self-regarding inwardness suggests that he’s struggling, as is Salvador, his hero, to find something new to say.

Alberto wastes no time in introducing Salvador to the pleasures of smoking heroin and this comes as a relief to Salvador, a pill slave whose body is racked by physical issues that suggest that he’s extracting full value from his health policy and who indeed, following a back operation, carries himself like someone 10 years older than he is.

Upon discovering a text that Salvador has written about his past, Alberto insists on performing it as a monologue in a small Madrid theater. Thus the two men are able to revive in one another their failing creative impulses. Sitting in the audience is Argentinian Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who had an affair with Salvador many years before and who now shows up on Salvador’s doorstep to help deliver the film’s  most sublime scene, a wonderfully played, heartfelt and beautifully written exchange between two late middle-aged men who only now, years later, are able to confess the desire that has remained buried within them. The scene is intense and ends with Salvador smiling for the first and last time, and rightly so.

Salvador’s thoughts regularly go to the past, and the film is more engaging in its flashbacks than in its present-day despite the fact that by some bizarre psychological kink, all of Salvador’s memories are filtered through the films of Almodovar. When Salvador  was young, money was tight, and his mother Jacinta (Penelope Cruz) is obliged to raise him in a striking rural house/cave. The young Salvador goes on to be a choirboy, with all that this implies and plays out in the older Salvador’s throat problems. It is in this house that the young Salvador feels his sexual awakening as he watches beautifully muscled builder Eduardo (Cesar Vicente) dry himself down.

Almodovar’s world view dovetails entirely with his work-view. Little space is left for the revealing, the fresh or the daring and the film that is beautifully crafted is also dangerously comfortable, so that strangely enough, what’s being said to be the director’s most personal effort to date comes across as an oddly detached and impersonal exercise but in great style.

Cultural references to the movies and to literature are everywhere including from Almodovar’s own work, in what must be one of the most shamelessly self-referential movies ever made. “Pain and Glory” probably requires several viewings, so gorgeous is its attention to detail. Almodovar is the best at setting up patterns of echoing colors through scenes and down the years. Salvador’s apartment is a beautiful if overwhelming clutter of brightly hued culture and probably a detailed recreation of Almodovar’s own.

The childhood scenes are the beautifully staged stuff of nostalgic fantasy, so that viewers don’t actually get to feel much of the post-Spanish Civil War poverty they’re supposedly witnessing. The visual geometrics of each scene are composed with utmost care, and sometimes we see overwrought little close-ups in rich monochromes that are there for their beauty alone.

Performances are excellent all around but there is a problem with this protagonist, which is that Almodovar seems to be much fonder of the work he’s made than of the man he’s become. The young Salvador generously tries to teach Eduardo how to write, but for the world-weary older Salvador, other people seem to exist simply as a means to boost his ego and his art. Salvador’s self-centeredness makes it hard to engage with him dramatically, particularly since there’s very little within the film ] to suggest that he merits all this tortured-genius treatment.

In lesser hands this could have become pretentious and incestuous but as it is, it is riveting and emotionally engaging in a way that few contemporary directors could achieve. It has a universal message about how we come to terms with the facing the end of life and failing faculties as well as fears of the unknown.

“Taking Down the Golden Boy” by David Tacium— Friendship, Etc.

Tacium, David. “Taking Down the Golden Boy”,  Xlibris US, 2019.

Friendship, Etc.

Amos Lassen

I have mentioned before that one of the best things about being a reviewer is the chance to meet new writers with new ideas before everyone else does. I was flattered when David Tacium, a Canadian writer, asked me if I would review his book, “Taking Down the Golden Boy” and I am certainly glad that I took the time to read his work. We have had so many coming out, growing up and identity search books that I often wonder if there is something new and sure enough there is and it is right here in this beautifully written story about Tim Evans. We go to Winnipeg in the 1970s where Tim is dealing with his attraction to Stephen Seton. But nothing is simple here, Both young men are eighteen-years-old and both sense that fundamentalist religion and same sex attraction do not go together. Tim is attracted to Stephen sets him upon his quest for understanding. Stephen is very aware that he is different from others yet he holds on tightly to his belief in religion, feeling that the two are incompatible yet not knowing how to deal with his emotions. I wonder how many of us who prefer same-sex relations even stopped to try to understand why. Certainly when I was younger and dealing with my sexuality, I did not attempt to understand it yet I understood that I was different from others.

What is interesting between Stephen and Tim is that each is unable to come out to the other. Undoubtedly their religion is the reason for this but were it not for that religion, they probably would never have been aware of each other. Here I borrow a statement from the author, “if religion can brainwash it can also intoxicate.” 

Tim is a precocious guy who has no idea about who he is and because of this he is filled with guilt and a true romantic. He sees that he is an outsider and seems to be fine with that until he meets Stephen and realizes that there is someone else like him. Yet Stephen is a bit different. He carries a charisma that everyone becomes instantly aware of and he is the son of a renowned writer of devotional works. Tim seems Stephen as “the Golden Boy, copy of an Italian Renaissance statue of the Greek god Hermes, son of Zeus and hence son of God” like the statue on the house of the Law in the middle of Winnipeg. He also sees and feels that the golden boy must come down.

In stories of this kind, authors tend to write from the objective point of view and herein is the main difference between writer Tacium and others. Here we get a subjective look at gay sensibility at a time and place in history when being gay was  just becoming a thinkable identity. Before this being gay caused hostility and non-acceptance. As we follow Tim and Stephen we also follow the changes in the way we have been thought about and even dealt with. This was a time in which there were no happy endings.

To deal with himself, Tim compromises much but does not compromise either himself or his potential. He knows that he is not solid and that he can disappoint others. Instead of seeing the brighter side of life, he sees a dark side of spirituality and of male sexuality.  While much has changed regarding the LGBTQ community, some of what we read here is very much the way it still is regarding religion and sexuality.

The issues raised by this novel are still very much alive in North America, our society being so absorbed in both religious belief and sexuality. There are other issues as well but I do not want to spoil a fresh and wonderful read by saying too much. Tacium looks at “belief and knowledge, beauty and self-abjection” as we follow Tim as he deals with himself and with Stephen. There are some shocking passages that are beautifully rendered and give insight to our characters. “Taking Down the Golden Boy” is a novel that will stay with you long after you close the covers.

“The Melting Queen” by Bruce Cinnamon— History and Magic

Cinnamon, Bruce, “The Melting Queen”,  NeWest Press, 2019.

History and Magic

Amos Lassen

Every year since 1904, when the ice begins to break up on the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton crowns a Melting Queen–a woman who presides over the Melting Day spring carnival and who must keep the city’s spirits up during the following winter. But this year, something has changed  and a genderfluid ex-frat brother called River Runson is named as Melting Queen. Of course River’s reign upends the city’s century-old traditions and Edmonton is split in two with progressive and reactionary factions fighting a war for Edmonton’s soul. Ultimately, River must uncover the hidden history of Melting Day, forcing Edmonton to confront the dark underbelly of its traditions and leading the city into a new chapter in its history.

Writer Bruce Cinnamon wonderfully balances satire with compassion and combines history and magic to weave a splendid future-looking tale. River while a

genderfluid male lives in a magical version of Edmonton and is destined to become The Melting Queen, a feminine figure who presides over Edmonton during its large festival, and who helps bring in spring every year.

The combination of “boring, conservative Edmonton” with a genderfluid protagonist seems strange but in the end it all works as  modern politics and historical fiction with a dash of magic come together.

“The History of Living Forever: A Novel” by Jake Wolff— Love and the Elixir of Life

Wolff, Jake. “The History of Living Forever: A Novel”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.

Love and the Elixir of Life

Amos Lassen

Jake Wolff’s novel, “The History of Living Forever” is the story of Conrad Aybinder, a chemistry student who falls for his teacher, Sammy Tabari,  and discovers a centuries-old quest for the elixir of life.

But Sammy Tampari died and he was more than a chemist, he was an alchemist, searching for a mythic elixir of life. Sammy’s death was sudden but he managed to leave twenty years’ worth of his notebooks and a storage locker filled with expensive and strange equipment to Conrad, his star student and lover. The notebooks contain strange “recipes,” with no instructions and although the notebooks tell Tampari’s life story, they just  hint at the reason for his death. Tampari’s favorite question to his students, “What’s missing?” is evident in all of the notebooks filled with research. Conrad begins to put together the clues to get to the solution and learns that he is not the only person to suspect that his teacher succeeded in his quest. If he wants to save his father from a mysterious illness, Conrad knows that he has to make some very difficult decisions.

Spanning a century, this is an adventure story that takes us around the world and introduces us to some very unforgettable characters including drug lords, Big Pharma workers, centenarians, boy geniuses, and a group of immortalists masquerading as coin collectors. We venture into the mysteries of life and these include first love and first heartbreak, grief, irreconcilable loneliness, depression,  medical miracles, coming of age and coming out. The mystical and the romantic come together in a love story that deals with what life is all about. You will find it hard to believe that this is a first novel that dares to deal with the desire for eternal life. I particularly love

That writer Wolff shows Conrad’s journey with historical asides about others’ attempts at solving the problem of death. We see the past through Tampari’s journal entries, as well as projects into Conrad’s future while looking at the emotions of love, hope and grief that go along with the search for everlasting life.

Conrad’s quest is quite a wild adventure that kept me reading non-stop so let me suggest that you clear your day before you begin this novel. The humor of the novel is sly and clever and I cannot remember when the last time I read about the search for eternal life and/or alchemy. It felt good to bring an old subject back to life and eloquently so. Jake Wolff does not ignore the truths of life and how easy it is to hurt the people we love and that many of us tend to forget rather than forgive. Have you ever thought that if you just had a few more years, you could or would correct the mistakes you have made with others? Then again, you just might forget them.

I am fascinated by the bringing together of a coming of age story with the story of the quest for eternal life. History and myth merge to give us  a look at eternal love along with the  quest for eternal life. How about Conrad as a gay man who is not caring about keeping his own good looks but rather trying to prevent the people he loves from dying. What a great and novel approach. It has been a long time since I have had so much fun reading a book.

“The Skin Is the Elastic Covering that Encases the Entire Body” by Bjorn Rasmussen— When Love Is Taboo

Rasmussen, Bjorn. “The Skin Is the Elastic Covering that Encases the Entire Body”, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken, Two Lines Press, 2019.

When Love is Taboo

Amos Lassen

As many of you know, I read a great deal and I really do not limit myself to genre and in this way I can allow myself to try new books and authors. Sometimes I am quite blown away by reading someone or something new but nothing prepared me for what I would read in Bjorn Rasmussen’s “The Skin in the Elastic Covering that Encases the Whole Body.” I have read thousand of coming of age and coming out stories but few make me sit up and shake with the thought that I was reading something new, important and great.

Many gay men who realized that they loved other men saw this as smashing down a taboo yet the guilt often remained that this love was sinful. And it is at this early point that I realize that this novel I am reading and now reviewing is unlike any kind of literature I have ever read in that I have no idea how to classify it.

Here is the story of a boy Bjorn, a teenager who is a cutter— he cuts into his flesh as a way to find some kind of way to deal with his mother who suffers from depression and with his own sexuality that causes him fear. He becomes involved with an older man and a sadomasochistic affair that he thinks will bring healing but does the opposite. As he searches for self-understanding, he feels more and more harmed and he has to deal with his own grief that he feels his sexuality brings him. In doing so, he pushes his flesh to its limits.

Early on as a university student, I had a wonderful professor who took me by the hand and taught me to both appreciate and love writing in the stream of conscious and what first appears here to be just that actually also involves autobiography, collage, and narrative thus making Rasmussen an original and powerful new (to me, at least) literary voice. This is not the stream if Faulkner or Joyce but a modern take on it and it is totally free with no restrictions. It is poetic, it is elegiac and emotional, it is sensual and pansexual,  it is exciting and erotic. We are all guilty of wounding ourselves either mentally or physically and we hurt. Read this to soothe those wounds and yes, you will se yourself here. It is the skin that needs solace and it is our skin we hurt as it defines and covers us.

We are touched by skin and we touch skin and we actually find our skin permeated by the senses and by sex. When sex is good, the skin celebrates. Our skin reacts to touch and smell and the more I try to describe the more I find it and this book to be indescribable. Take my word and read it.

“Like This Afternoon Forever” by Jaime Manrique— Catholic Priests in Love

Manrique, Jaime. “Like This Afternoon Forever”, Kaylie Jones, Books, 2019.
Catholic Priests in Love
Amos Lassen
What I love about reading is that it takes me to places I might never see and introduces me to people who I will probably otherwise never meet. Writer Jaime Manrique does both and with style. We get to know two gay Catholic priests who become lovers when they meet in a seminary in war-torn Colombia.
Both Lucas (who is the son of farmers) and Ignacio (who is a descendant of the Barí indigenous people) come into the seminary because they both want to help others and  also get an education. Like so many  love stories, the two deal with the many stages of love (as well as love in prohibitive circumstance). They experience  passion, indifference, rage, and finally commit to staying together for the rest of their lives. Working together in a community largely composed of people displaced by war, Ignacio comes “upon the horrifying story of the false positives, which will put the lives of the two men in grave danger (as if the country of Colombia is not dangerous enough).
Colombia has been ruled by drug cartels and insurgents. The government has tried to gain control of the drug traffic but in the process large areas of the Amazon basin have been destroyed and populations have been decimated. This is both a love story and of murders which we have come to know as the “false positive”. Manrique exposes the  scandal of the false positive scandal (the military lured unsuspecting civilians to their deaths and then presented the bodies as defeated insurgents in order to inflate their victories) and he does so in gorgeous elegant prose. This is the story of
love and murder that Manrique based on a shocking (and little-reported in that in this country we knew nothing about). As many as 10,000 poor and mentally disabled Colombian citizens were lured into remote areas by the Colombian military, murdered, then presented to superiors as ‘guerilla fighters’ and in this way the numbers of casualties was inflated.  Then there is the story of two priests who are forced to hide their forbidden love and who discover evidence of widespread and extreme government violence.
Jaime Manrique is a recipient of Colombia’s National Poetry Award as well as a Guggenheim fellowship and it is his skill that he is able to bring the ‘false positives’ scandal into a love story. I read about the “false positives” with my mouth wide open and tears in my eyes and while I closed my mouth when reading about Ignacio and Lucas, the tears remained. These were tears because of the beauty of their relationship and their love for each other and the bravery that they shared and showed. Here
is a very powerful story about religion, poverty, sexuality, love and bravery that is quite an intense but necessary read. It is a quick read in which we can see ourselves as well as those we have chosen not to see. (You might have to ponder that thought a bit but once you read, “Like This Afternoon Forever”, you will understand.  This is a wonderful gay novel but even more than that it is a wonderful novel without that specification.

“The Song of the Sea” by Jenn Alexander— Facing Grief

Alexander, Jenn. “The Song of the Sea”, Bywater Books, 2019.

Confronting Grief

Amos Lassen

What I really love about reviewing is the chance to  read debut authors and if possible, help them on their ways. I love the feeling that I get when I realize that what I am reading must be shared with the world and today, I am sharing Jenn Alexander and her gorgeous novel. “The Song of the Sea”. I must say that the title won me over immediately and for those of you who are not familiar with the Hebrew Bible or Judaism, I will explain. One of the highpoints of the Jews wandering in the desert was the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and this becomes part of the prayer liturgy of the Jewish people. “The Song of the Sea” as it appears in the Five Books of Moses is read and every Jewish prayer service and is an integral part of the relationship between what was the young Hebrew nation and God. I was not sure what to expect from Jenn Alexander’s “The Song of the Sea” but she had already won me over with her title.

Quite basically, it is the story of Lisa Whelan, a woman who must deal with her grief when she falls in love with a struggling single-mom whose son reminds her of the child she lost. There is no time schedule for falling in love and Lisa really had no plans to do so. She always found comfort in the ocean and after her newborn son dies, she goes home to her family and to find solace in the nearby body of water. The song that comes from the water, “the song if the sea” strengthens Lisa and comforts her making her feel safe. She certainly was not planning on meeting anyone as she worked through her grief and is really not ready for how she feels for her new friend, Rachel. Rachel is part-owner of the restaurant in town but even with her strong feelings for the women, something happens when Lisa learns that Rachel has a young son and Lisa is still very brittle about the loss of her son.

We see that it has not been easy for Rachel as a single mom to raised Declan her son. Declan is not the best behaved child on the block and it often punished at school for his disruptive behavior. Lisa, in all of her grief, is irresistibly drawn to Rachel and her son. She thinks that she will be able to control her emotions at bay and that the grief she feels will not keep her from falling in love. She is, of course, shaken by her emotions yet she believes that how she feels for Rachel and Declan will allow her to find what she so badly needs.  She just must allow herself to a new song of the sea.

Yes. My friends, you will tear up while reading but that’s fine as this is a tale filled with grace and compassion. We face grief early on and it stays with us and ultimately becomes hope. The pain of losing a newborn child becomes part of the mother’s memory and remains there forever. We do not know how to deal with a mother’s grief and there are manuals but with help of Rachel, we feel that Lisa will ultimately be okay.

“Flannelwood” by Raymond Luczak— Finding Love, Loosing Love

Luczak, Raymond.  “Flannelwood”, Red Hen , 2019

Finding Love. Loosing Love

Amos Lassen

When I first seriously started reviewing some 13 years ago, one of the first writers I read and wrote about was Raymond Luczak and I did so without knowing any background information about him and certainly was not aware that he could not hear. Later as I continued to review him, I learned what a dynamic person he is and that his disability does not define him. Luczak is one helluva good writer and whatever he writes, poetry, fiction or nonfiction it is all punctuated with shining moments and excellent writing skills. I knew before I even picked up “Flannelwood” that I was going to be reading a very special book…. and it is.

Bill is a forty-year-old barista and a failed poet who meets James, a disabled factory worker and “a daddy hunk” at an OctoBear Dance and it is love at first sight. For six months they have wonderful weekends filled with passion at James’ house during which they made the cold winters seem very hot. Then, as spring rolls in, James calls Bill and tells him that it’s not going to work out and hangs up. As we expect, Bill is bereft and has nothing to base some kind of understanding upon. He looks for clues and reflects on his own past relationships but it took a mysterious stranger to learn why James ended it. Of course, I am not going to share that because if I did you have no reason to read this book and I want everyone to read it— not just for the story but also as a way to meet Raymond Luczak. I will share that this is a story that will haunt you.

Because one of the characters suffers from a disability, we get something of a new take on LGBTQ literature that we do not often have. It is the beauty of Luczak’s prose and prose poetry that makes the book and the characters come alive. His unique dealing with disabilities here is magical and as a person who works for disability inclusion, I found a great deal to love. I also was greatly tuned into Bill’s search for answers and his attempts to find a way to gain revenge. As I was reading, I found myself thinking about a book that dealt with similar issues and one that I read as a graduate student studying feminist literature but it was not until I realized that it was Djuna Barnes’s “Nightwood” (I suppose I should have read the blurbs on the book’s cover but it is my practice not to look at any supplemental material until after I have read the book I am reviewing).There are several themes here including disability, intimacy, questions about masculinity, alienation, and healing.

It is so often very difficult to find our ways into love and when it does not work to fight our way out of love. To me that is the overriding theme of “Flannelwood” and it is beautifully handled.

“Half Moon Street” by Alex Reeve— A Literary Surprise

Reeve, Alex. “Half Moon Street, (Leo Stanhope #1)”, Felony & Mayhem, 2019.

A Literary Surprise

Amos Lassen

As most of you can imagine, I get plenty of books every week but very few make me sit up and take notice. Now that does not mean that there is no good writing out there because there is and, of course, I have my own criteria for what will be great literature and I am as often wrong as I am right on this. Just imagine how boring it would be if we all liked the same thing. Even with that, I have a feeling that we will keep hearing about Alex Reeve.

I am generally not much of a mystery reader and for me to like a mystery is difficult. But then there is Alex Reeve who pulled me in on the first page and kept me going long after I finished the book. Set in 1880, we meet Leo Stanhope, a guy with great dreams and empty pockets. His dreams include  setting up house with Maria, his prostitute girlfriend and he dreams of getting of London and as far away from dead bodies as possible. Leo works at the morgue where he confronts blood and stink every day. He also dreams of a world

Like half the young men in London, Leo Stanhope is rich in dreams but poor of pocket. He dreams of making a home with Maria, the prostitute he loves. He dreams of a life far from the blood and stink of the morgue where he works. And he dreams of a world where no one cares about gender. You see, Leo has a secret that can lock him away in prison for life if he is not killed before that. However, Maria was killed instead, and Leo is the prime suspect. He is determined and desperate to clear his name and find the murderer but to do so, he is forced to make important sacrifices—  his books, his job, his home.

Leo was born Charlotte, but he knew he was meant to be a man despite his body saying otherwise. He ran away when he was just 15 and has lived as Leo since that day. Very few people knew about his original identity. 
Now with Maria dead and Leo accused of her murder, he lost the woman he loves, and now could lose his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

Alex Reeve is an amazing writer especially when we consider that he had create an atmosphere, draw characters and a plot that all work together.

It did not take long for Leo to understand that he barely knew Maria and her funeral gives Leo an opportunity to see and meet others from her life, including the brothel owner, a man who claims family connections with the powerful Bentinck family and his bookkeeper, Miss Nancy Gainsford. Before long, Leo is arrested as the main suspect for Maria’s murder by the police, but he is released after behind the scenes pressure is put on them. As Leo meets more and more people who knew Maria, he feels betrayed, begins to learn about human trafficking, and the misery and horror of it.  The mystery goes on but I want to leave that I can’t slip and give something away. It is important that we see Leo’s vulnerability  and how he has to live with the risks and dangers of being transgender in unenlightened times. He is forced to reinforce a self-protective barrier between himself and the world. There is a lot of brutality, abuse and rape in the novel.

Reeve wonderfully captures the  atmosphere of the times and I became so involved in reading that before I realized it, the sun rose and I was sitting in the same place I sat twelve hours earlier. The book was on my lap, closed but the story remained fresh in my mind and o it still is today. I must admit that I fell in love with Leo a bit and the good news is that he will be back in a series of books beginning in the fall of 2020.